The church experience made me feel happy. And happiness had never before been part of any agenda or outcome I'd hoped for. Instead, all of my twenties had been spent doing things that were darkly interesting: watching Ingmar Bergman movies, reading Ibsen, Dostoyevsky, and Faulkner; and talking fashionable philosophy, like existentialism and relativism, with semi-intellectual kids high on alcohol.
The times were dark too. WW II had only recently past, the assassinations of the two Kennedy's, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X had happened in a span of five years, the Vietnam War was in full force and the overshadowing effects of Camelot were long gone. With the dull and constant changes caused by integration, the sexual revolution, and the God is Dead movement, and with the rising numbers of those in poverty in America and those dead on the battlefield and from heroin in the back alleys, Life Magazine, the premier journal of the times, portrayed the world as being heavy, hard and darkly beautiful.
Happiness seemed to me and many others my age to be both silly and old fashioned. A more appreciated trendy sentiment - but one lacking any sense of happiness's sweetness or innocence - was the newly minted and marketed sentiments of cool and funky. And so the moments approaching happiness I remember were those looking through edgy fashion magazines with bold colored photos of big eyed Twiggy - the supermodel of the 60s - wearing magical outfits with white plastic go-go boots. It was as if a new order had taken over the hearts and minds of a generation. And the order was aligned with a cold and angular aesthetic that hummed to the sound of electric guitars and the clean perfection of science and science fiction. Traditional happiness seemed too much rooted in the past and the long skirts, the modest hats and suede cotton gloves my mother wore to show off that she was somebody. Traditional happiness was something that belonged in churches, parish halls and places that beckoned back to the obsolete and superficial.
But on that Sunday morning I left the church feeling that the dark universe had lost its hold. And as I walked down the sidewalk with my mother and Granny, the love and forgiveness of a God I'd never acknowledged before seemed to walk along side me.
To be Continued ...